I had to take a bit of a blogging break over the summer. Since I run camps and classes during this time, (as well as writing a book, publishing another book, and being a mom) things were a little hectic. Not to mention we went to San Diego for ComicCon, which takes at least two weeks of mental preparation before we go and two weeks of decompression when we get back. But school's back in and that means a couple of things.
1. I have a couple hours per day free (although I’m still running camp—preschoolers are afoot)
2. I now have to interact with people outside my direct circle which always gives me anxiety and in return (YAY!) something to blog about.
This is a tricky subject, but I promised my friend I would write this blog. It’s tricky because when people read this they will either say “She is sooooo right,” or they will drive to my house and throw eggs at me for being a jerk. Alas, I feel like I need to speak for the 95% here, the moms who really just need everyone to take a seat, so I’m risking the eggs.
My friend no longer lives in Dekalb (she moved to one of those counties with a school board that can balance their budget) so I’m using her as an example of some of the things we see in our email boxes once school starts. Even though this isn’t a local example, don’t think this kind of thing isn’t happening here all the time. My example may be from a county far far away, in a land where they don’t owe a gazillion dollars in legal fees due to corruption within the administration (AKA: Cobb County) but the issue is far and wide.
My friend is awesome. Even though, like me, she has some social anxiety she agreed to be a “Room Parent” for her daughter's class. This was her first mistake. She thought this would be a good way to volunteer, help a teacher she loves and spend time doing something productive for the school. As soon as she told me I shouted, "ARE YOU CRAZY?" I tried to be room mom one time. I thought I was being nice and taking a bullet for the rest of the moms in the class. Somewhere along the way I missed the memo that being a Room Parent is Srs Bsns. There was a coup midway through the year when two other moms decided I wasn’t doing a good job. This is probable as I was likely doing things like working three jobs, raising two kids and staying up til 3 AM watching re-runs of Angel on TNT, but it all seemed a little dramatic to unceremoniously strip me of my title by removing me from the email list.
ANYWAY, my friend goes to her kid’s class at the open house and agrees to be a Room Rep. This is what they call it in this section of Cobb County. A Room Rep. She along with two other women will represent this third grade class. Seems like over-kill to me but if you have enough people you can split up the tasks and maybe it won’t be so bad (note: three people means two of them can overthrow you! I learned this!) You would think that three parents would be enough, but no, that does not seem to be the case.
Here is a tiny portion from the email my friend received explaining her duties as a Room Rep:
Room Rep Training - Please save the date and attend training. Please contact me if you will be unable to attend or have been a Room Rep in past years and feel comfortable with your responsibilities. Following our meeting next week, I will send out contact information for your grade's Room Reps, so that you will be able to share ideas and stay connected. Blah Blah other stuff I removed to protect the innocent.
What? Training? You have to train to be a room mom? This requires training?! What do you need to do other than collect money for gifts, organize class parties, and help the teacher with classroom needs? I mean, we have email. All you have to do is shoot one of those out and typically 10 people will do anything that comes up. It's not like, back in the day, when people had to pick up the really heavy phone and use the rotary dial to call the phone tree back when no one had answering machines to get information across. (Can you imagine? That would be exhausting. No wonder things were way less complicated.) Do people need training on how to write an email?
This, people, is where we have lost focus. Because I’m getting the idea that being a Room Rep is like a serious job. It’s not about parties and reading books to the kids. It’s about making sure everyone knows that everyone else is busier than everyone else and all of this needs to stop.
This cannot be something initiated by the school. Don’t get me wrong, schools like to have some help but they also tend to want to keep everything kind of on the down-low. This concept HAD to of been created by moms looking for something to do while making other moms feel inferior. This is a full-time sport for moms. Making other moms feel like crap. Sadly, this doesn’t really work for me because I am already exhausted from the real obligations I have to keep up with during the day. Like writing blogs. Or going to the gym. KIDDING. I’ve got to work. And stuff.
So here is my method. Every year I walk into my kids' classrooms and meet the teacher. The interesting thing is that my husband works at the school and I hardly know any of the teachers. Why? Because I don’t spend my day hanging around his job. I kind of pop in and out when needed but otherwise I don’t really hang around there, unless necessary. I’m pretty sure the Open House was the first time I had met my daughter's teacher. She seems super nice. I also told her what I tell every teacher. “I can’t sign up for any of those lists, because…well, I just can’t. But if you ever need anything let me know. I am happy to help in anyway. I just can’t go….there.” Why? Well, I’m not a perfectionist and I guess my sense of what is necessary isn’t the same as the other parents in these positions, so it’s better if I just step aside and let someone do it who really feels motivated.
Honestly, I appreciate the moms and dads that do all the volunteer things at the school. We’re lucky people take an interest and that this is their gift to give back. I’m not sure why everything has to be so overboard with meetings and extra emails and making you feel terrible if you can’t give 100% to something. Because that’s how it ends up. If you can’t offer 100% to the Room Rep job things are going to get ugly. There has to be some middle ground where it’s okay to just show up with cupcakes from Publix and a gift card from Target and a promise that your child will do their homework and behave in class. Trust me, this is what teachers really want.
The flip side is this: The over committment makes parents afraid to volunteer for things. I'm letting all moms and dads know that it's okay not to be there all the time or do all the things. I am giving you permission to send in some terrible store bought cupcakes to the party. The kids aren't judging you. They only eat the icing anyway and throw out the rest. Do not waste your time baking for them. Ask the teacher what they need--really need, and give back what you can. In the end, I've never heard of a class fall apart out of lack of over-involved parent support, but one time I did read about a mom who stabbed her eye out with a fork rather than go to another parent meeting.